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December 13, 1998

The Results Of The Recent Vote In Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico's plebiscite on December 13, 1998, statehood was approved by 46.5% of the voters, the highest number of votes among four legally defined political status options presented on the ballot.

Among the other status options recognized under U.S. law, independence received 2.5% voter approval, a constitutionally accurate definition of the current commonwealth garnered a scant 0.1%, and independence with a treaty of free association won only 0.2% of the votes cast. A fifth "None of the Above" option on the ballot received 50.2% of the vote.

The Results Represent A Necessary Step In The Self-Determination Process For Puerto Rico.
It had become imperative to dispel the confusion created by a 1993 plebiscite, in which the highest number of votes (48%) were cast in favor of a legally inaccurate and constitutionally invalid definition of commonwealth.

The assertion made in the 1993 ballot that commonwealth conferred a non-territorial and constitutionally permanent form of union with guaranteed U.S. citizenship in perpetuity had been rejected by the Department of Justice on behalf of the Executive Branch, as well as both chambers of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. That is why another vote with only legally sound and politically realistic options was needed to begin the status resolution process.

What Do The Results Mean For Congress In The Long Term?
Both the 1993 and 1998 plebiscites were conducted under local law after Congress failed to approve federal plebiscite legislation defining the available choices to achieve a permanent status.

In the absence of a clear congressional policy on the status of Puerto Rico, many voters apparently remain unwilling to choose among legally recognized status options. However, the 1998 plebiscite results -- in contrast to 1993 -- do not let Congress off the hook by endorsing an unrealistic and implausible definition of commonwealth that Congress can simply ignore.

Instead, the 1998 "None of the Above" vote demonstrates that the self-determination process for Puerto Rico will remain inert until Congress authorizes a federal plebiscite which defines for the voters the terms for statehood, separate sovereignty or continuation of the current status under the territorial clause powers of Congress.

Since both the current territorial status and any form of separate sovereignty have been rejected, and since surveys consistently show that Puerto Ricans place an extremely high value on their American citizenship, the real question is whether there is any option other than statehood through which permanent union and irrevocable citizenship can be achieved.

Congressional Sponsored Plebiscite Necessary
The 1998 plebiscite confirms the need for Congress to ascertain the will of the people of Puerto Rico among options Congress is willing to consider. This can be accomplished only if Congress sponsors a referendum under Federal law and informs the voters of the terms for continuing the current status or changing to a new status.

Historical And Legal Basis For Puerto Rico Status Process
The last time Congress exercised its territorial clause power and authority under the Treaty of Paris to define the status and rights of residents of Puerto Rico was in 1950, when U.S. Public Law 600 authorized establishment of a commonwealth system of self-government in matters Congress considered local. Establishment of commonwealth was expressly based on consent of the voters in a referendum sponsored by Congress.

Status Quo Commonwealth Rejected
The overwhelming rejection of commonwealth as it exists under P.L. 600 now means only Congress can establish a process to restore government by consent. In the absence of action by Congress, Puerto Rico is once again in the same condition it was prior to 1950.

The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico remain disenfranchised in the federal political process to which they are subject, and administration by the U.S. under the commonwealth created by Congress is not a consensual or fully self-governing status.

Issues Congress Must Address In The Short Term
The historical reality emerging from the somewhat tortured self-determination process in Puerto Rico is that 97% of the voters want permanent union, irrevocable U.S. citizenship for all future generations of Puerto Ricans, and "state-like" treatment in the U.S. political, budgetary and economic system. 46.5% of the voters believe Puerto Rico must assume equal responsibilities to get equal rights, and that statehood is the only constitutionally permanent form of union.

Not surprisingly, 50.2% of the voters still want to know if Congress can or will constitutionally guaranty continuation of the current $10 billion annual subsidy of "state-like" treatment for commonwealth while it remains an enclave of cultural, linguistic and political separatism under the American flag.

That means Congress will have to decide if a status based on a trade off of less than equal civil rights and disenfranchisement of 3.8 million U.S. citizens in exchange for limited Federal benefits is in the national interest as we enter a new century. Those who support continuation of commonwealth must now justify it.

Thus, commonwealth supporters in Puerto Rico must explain why Federal spending should continue while Puerto Rico enjoys a free ride on income taxes and seeks recognition of separate sovereignty, nationality and citizenship under a doctrine of ethnic segregation and political confederacy (including a desired local power of nullification over Federal law).

Conversely, Congressional supporters of commonwealth must define the terms and policies under which it will be allowed to continue, and also explain why Puerto Ricans should not concern themselves with the fact that commonwealth provides only a constitutionally temporary political and citizenship status which a future Congress can alter at will.



1)Why Was This Plebiscite Even Held? Wasn't There One In 1993?

The 1993 Puerto Rican plebiscite left unresolved the island's political status, continuing for a century US rule over this American territory acquired in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The 1998 plebiscite sought to resolve this issue by offering Puerto Rico's voters status options that are constitutionally capable of implementation.

2) Getting Back To The 1993 Plebiscite, Why Was The Plebiscite Necessary As The Commonwealth Option Won Then?

Not true. The commonwealth status quo was not on the ballot in 1993. An 'enhanced' commonwealth definition was on the ballot and it only prevailed by a plurality.

This was the first time since 1952 in which a majority of Puerto Rico's voters rejected the status quo or any form thereof. Moreover, the winning formula could not be given full credence because it contained proposals that were unconstitutional including permanent union with the US and a guarantee of American citizenship, both of which can only be achieved through statehood.

3) Well Then, Who Won This Time?

Of the legitimate status options as defined by Congress consistent with the constitution -- the territorial status quo, i.e.,
commonwealth, free association, independence and statehood -- statehood prevailed or 'won' with 46.5 percent of the vote.

4) How Can You Say That, Didn't "None Of The Above" Get Over 50 Percent?

It's true that 'None of the Above' received 50.2 percent but that was not for a legitimate status option but rather it
represented an amalgam of protest votes against the current administration, voters who supported the same discredited 1993 definition of commonwealth which was not on the ballot this time for reasons of legality and, finally, those among the electorate who weren't happy with any of the legitimate options offered.

5) I Don't Get It, What's This 'None Of The Above' Option About?

In 1993 the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that this option must be offered to voters who do not prefer any of the others presented in a status plebiscite. For example, some might want Puerto Rico returned to Spanish rule or for the territory to become politically a part of another state (e.g., New York or Florida) or, even another territory (e.g., Virgin Islands).

6) Didn't The Pro-Commonwealth Party, The PDP, Support This Option, Therefore Shouldn't It's 'Victory' Represent A Commonwealth Win?

No. The PDP normally would've backed commonwealth status, but it refused to recognize the legitimate congressionally
approved definition in the plebiscite, claiming that the discredited 1993 definition should apply and therefore it directed its party members to vote against all the options by selecting 'None of the Above.'

7) Then Why Didn't The PDP Put Forth Its Own Plebiscite Definition To Either Congress Or The Puerto Rico Legislature?

They claimed that the definition in 1993 plebiscite was accurate even though it was rejected when, in 1998, the US House of Representatives passed HR 856. The PDP presented their own new definition only after the congressional vote on HR 856 and after Puerto Rico enacted the 1998 plebiscite law.

Regardless, their new definition has been called a 'warmed over version' of the same constitutionally defective 1993 option.

8) Well Then, Wasn't Statehood Defeated For The Second Time In Five Years?

No. It's true statehood came in second in 1993 but the winning formula -- 'enhanced' commonwealth -- was deemed to be constitutionally defective by Congress and so the 1998 plebiscite was held in which only legitimate congressionally approved definitions were included.

Among the four legitimate definitions in the 1998 plebiscite statehood came out on top.

9) But Isn't Governor Rossello Claiming That Statehood Was An Outright Winner In 1998?

True. But on the basis of which among the four legitimate political status options received the most votes, he's right.

10) Why Shouldn't We Respect The Will Of The Majority And Do Nothing About Status For A While?

The will of the majority, no, matter how it's measured -- even with counting the "None of the Above' vote -- demonstrates that almost 100 percent of Puerto Ricans reject the current territorial commonwealth status. Therefore, another federally sponsored plebiscite must be held in which legitimate status options are defined by Congress and the voters of Puerto Rico choose among them.

11) Why Do You Want Congress To Act Or Intervene In The Plebiscite Process? Shouldn't It Be Left Up To Puerto Rico?

The status issue is, unfortunately, tied up in local politics in Puerto Rico and the ballot process allows any of the parties to use the referendum for their own purposes rather than for permanently resolving Puerto Rico's future relationship with the US.

In 1993, each of the parties defined their own status option and commonwealth proponents put in a definition that was
legally and constitutionally incapable of implementation. In 1998, although only congressionally approved definitions
were included, local law required a 'None of the Above' option which was used mainly by commonwealth supporters to subvert the plebiscite and to deny victory to a legitimate status choice.

Thus, if left up to Puerto Rico, once again, we can expect repeats of the 1993 and 1998 experiences.

12) What Do You Want Congress To Do?

Only Congress can legislate a federal plebiscite with legitimate options and preclude a "None of the Above' alternative from the plebiscite process.

This is the only feasible method that will ultimately lead to full self-government for Puerto Rico and permanent resolution of its relationship with the US.

13) Why?

A new legitimate political status supported by a majority of the territory's electorate must be determined as less than a majority of Puerto Ricans approved the commonwealth status quo (in effect since 1952) in the 1993 plebiscite, and nearly 100 percent of the electorate rejected it in the 1998 plebiscite.

14) Frankly, Isn't This Effort To Get Federal Plebiscite Legislation Academic Since Gov. Rossello Has Decided Not To Seek A Third Term In 1999?

Not at all.

Rossello's pro-statehood party has nominated Carlos Pesquera, the current Secretary of Transportation and Public Works, to run for governor in 1999.

Pesquera has vowed to follow the lead of Gov. Rossello and seek entry into the Union for Puerto Rico as the fifty-first state.

In fact, Pesquera on becoming the NPP's official gubernatorial candidate, pledged to work from Day One after his election to hold a new status plebiscite and secure from the new107th Congress a promise to act on its results.

15) Isn't This Simply A Way Of Trying To Force Statehood On Puerto Ricans Who Simply Don't Want It Just To Insure Their Permanent American Citizenship And Permanent Ties With The US?

No. While it's true that more than 97 percent of Puerto Ricans want both these ties with the US and statehood is the only legal status that can guarantee their perpetuity, it's also true that the present commonwealth status, territorial in nature, can provide these American attributes currently even though Congress, constitutionally, can alter or amend Puerto Rico's and Puerto Rican's relationship with the US in the future.

Moreover, Congressional power over Puerto Rico is absolute; for example, even without calling for a plebiscite it could unilaterally declare Puerto Rico independent under the Territorial Clause.

16) Wouldn't This Plebiscite Legislation Discriminate Against Commonwealth?

Wrong: Commonwealth backers would have you believe it would because their flawed definition of commonwealth would be excluded from the ballot.

The truth: Puerto Rico can only aspire to a legitimate internationally recognized political status. Moreover, if Puerto Ricans wish to retain permanent US citizenship and permanent ties with the US they must choose a status that can be reconciled with the US Constitution.

Territorial commonwealth, the status quo, is both impermanent and not recognized under international law. To boot, enhanced commonwealth suffers further infirmities, it is not a legitimate status under the US Constitution.

17) Why Is It So Important To Act On New Plebiscite Legislation Now?

Under the constitution territorial status is temporary and 100 years as an American possession is hardly a short time for a permanent status for Puerto Rico to be determined. The current status is no longer supported by a majority of Puerto Rico's residents according to both the 1993 and 1998 plebiscite's.

Further, American taxpayers cannot be expected to indefinitely continue subsidizing Puerto Rico's commonwealth at the rate of $10 billion a year, and growing, without any permanent status solution in sight.

It's time for Congress to end the discussion that goes back as far as the 1989 congressional legislative initiatives on how to proceed and to finally resolve the U.S. ­ Puerto Rico relationship now.

18) What's In It For The American People In The Fifty States?

Resolution of Puerto Rico's political status should be welcomed by all Americans.

An independent of freely associated Puerto Rican nation will relieve the annual $10 billion Puerto Rico federal subsidy borne by US citizens.

Full self-government -- independence, free association or statehood -- for Puerto Rico will remove the hypocrisy of America preaching self-determination to the world's peoples all the while harboring the largest colony within its own sovereign back yard.

19) What's In It For The People Of Puerto Rico?

Self-determination and full self-government will finally, after 400 years of Spanish rule and 100 of American, offer Puerto Rico's 3.8 million U.S. citizens the opportunity to determine their own political future as part of the U.S or as an independent nation.

They need to shed their second class citizenship and be able to vote for the president of the U.S and elect voting members of Congress if Puerto Rico becomes a state.

Or, they will be the masters of their own fate if independence or free association is chosen.

In both cases, they will no longer be politically disenfranchised or denied the full rights of their citizenship.

Finally, independence or statehood will provide a better way of life as a result of accelerated economic growth and increased per capita income.

20) Why Should Republicans Support This Legislation?

First, it's a matter of principle as the party has supported Puerto Rico self-determination for over 40 years.

Every Republican president -- Eisenhower to Nixon to Ford to Reagan to Bush -- has supported Puerto Rico self-determination.

The national Republican Party's platforms have, since 1972, called for Puerto Rico self-determination. In 1996, it said: "We endorse initiatives of the congressional Republican leadership to provide for Puerto Rico's smooth transition to statehood if its citizens choose to alter their current status, or to set them on their own path to become an independent nation."

Finally, as Ralph Reed stated "It's only fitting that a Republican Congress should give the people of Puerto Rico what so many Republican presidents sought to achieve ­ a way to determine for themselves the government they should have."

21) What's In It Politically For The Republican Party If It Passes Plebiscite Legislation?

Politically, passage of the legislation can help Republicans among the 30 million mainland Hispanic Americans. Increased appeal to this group raised Republican votes among Hispanic Americans to 37 percent in 1998 from 27 percent in the 1996 elections.

Hispanics will soon be the nation's largest minority (2005) and key to winning critical electoral votes in states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Without capturing a sizeable percentage of the Hispanic American vote, the White House in 2000 may be out of reach.

As evidence of Hispanic's importance to the party, Republicans can lay claims to statehouse victories in Texas (George W. Bush won with over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote) and Florida (where Jeb Bush was similarly supported heavily by Hispanics) at the doorstep of the Hispanics voting bloc.

In contrast, losses of the governoship in California and a senate seat in New York were solely due to the party's poor showing with this group where 80 percent went to the Democrat candidate-winners.

If the Republican Party wants to be the New Majority Party it has no choice but to reach out to Hispanic Americans by passing Puerto Rico self-determination plebiscite legislation

As Ralph Reed said, "The Republican Party stands today on the threshold of sweeping political success. To achieve the successwe must demonstrate that our party is the natural home to millions of Hispanic Americans and is the true representative of their ideals and valuesWe have an opportunity to begin this outreach now."

22) Why Should The Republican Controlled Congress Help Puerto Rico's Republican Party?

The Puerto Rico Republican Party was founded in 1902 (78 years before the Democrats started up on the island) by Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa, the Forefather of Statehood for Puerto Rico. As early as 1928, the party won control of both houses of the legislature.

Poll after poll finds strong Puerto Rico identification with traditional Republican values: fiscally conservative, family oriented, pro-life, very religious.

The Puerto Rico Republican Party has been a major supporter of the national party. In the 1996 presidential primary Bob Dole's victory there re-energized his campaign sending him on to the presidential nomination.

Finally, the ruling statehood New Progressive Party (NPP) initiatives go beyond Republican mainland goals including: implementation of public company privatization's, a moment of meditation at the start of the school day, the Charter School concept, reductions in capital gains and income tax rates and in the government workforce.

23) If Republicans Enact A New Plebiscite Bill And Puerto Rico Became A State, Wouldn't It Elect Democratic Senators And Representatives Threatening The Republican's Control Of Congress?

The statistics prove otherwise. A majority of members of the Puerto Rico legislature are Republicans and 68 percent of the
island's mayors are, too.

The Democratic Party of Puerto Rico has never elected a single officeholder as a Democrat.

Moreover, a Center for Research and Public Policy poll found that the people of Puerto Rico share the party's conservative values: they are pro-family, anti-abortion, endorse school vouchers, favor school prayer and harsh prison terms for perpetrators of violent crimes and crimes against children and support a conservative lifestyle opposing state recognition of homosexual lifestyles.

As Ralph Reed pointed out, "If Puerto Rico became a state tomorrow and congressional elections were held, we would expect that Republicans would fare very well."

24) What Do Republicans And The Republican Party Have To Gain By Passing Plebiscite Legislation?

Credibility and with it the potential to recapture their traditional share of the Hispanic American vote in critical states -- in local and national races as well as the White House -- in 2000.

Taking a major step toward building their New Majority Party status by demonstrating the Republican Party's big tent appeal -- inclusiveness -- to all comers.

25) Why Should Democrats Support This Legislation?

It's a matter of principle.

Diminished margins in the House and the Senate, perhaps control, and loss of key gubernatorial races and the White House in 2000.

The President said that the 'none of the above' vote was not a win for a clear status choice, implying that a Federal referendum was necessary to finally resolve the matter.

26) What's In It Politically For The Democratic Party If It Passes Plebiscite Legislation?

Politically, passage of the legislation will shore up the Democrats strength among the 30 million mainland Hispanic Americans, 6 million of whom voted by a nearly 73 percent margin for Democrats in 1996, but fell to 63 percent in 1998.

The prospect of a George W. Bush candidacy in 2000 could further challenge Democratic support among Hispanics, soon to be the nation's largest minority (2005). After all, he cut into the Hispanic vote in Texas in the 1998 gubernatorial campaign winning over 40 percent of this vote.

Therefore, in order to retain the White House in 2000 the party must show its support for this issue, which is backed by over a hundred Hispanic American organizations. After all, this bloc is the key to winning critical electoral votes in states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Without retaining the party's traditional and sizeable percentage of the Hispanic American vote, the White House in 2000 may be out of reach.

Furthermore, winning the governorships in California and Senate seat in New York in 1998 were due to the party's top flight showing with this group where over 80 percent went to the Democrat candidate-winners.

Again, the key to winning back control of the House and Senate in 2000 may well rest with keeping the Hispanic voters going for the Democrats. Puerto Rico self-determination is a number one issue with this group and, furthermore, supporting federal plebiscite legislation will help offset efforts by Republicans to attract Hispanics to their tickets at the local, state and national levels.

27) What Else Do Democrats And The Democratic Party Have To Gain By Passing Plebiscite Legislation?

The opportunity to deny Republicans a significant chance to make inroads in this traditional Democratic bastion of voter strength.

As the Hispanic population becomes the biggest minority in the U.S. the future of American politics will change dramatically over the next twenty years. The party that can appeal permanently to this group will be well on its way to dominating the political landscape in the first half of the new millennia.

Democrats can not afford to cede this group or this issue to Republicans.

28) What Do Republicans and Democrats Risk Losing By Not Passing Puerto Rico Self-Determination Legislation?

Long term: Credibility within the Hispanic American community and other minority groups throughout the country.

Short term: Diminished margins in the House and the Senate, perhaps control, and loss of key gubernatorial and local races and the White House in 2000.

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